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Is Mid-America Apartment (MAA) a Solid Pick for Your Portfolio?

Mid-America Apartment Communities’ MAA, also known as MAA, well-diversified Sunbelt-focused portfolio is set to gain from healthy operating fundamentals and a strong development pipeline.

Encouragingly, MAA’s portfolio was less severely affected by the pandemic and the economic shutdown. The pandemic has accelerated employment shifts and a population inflow into the company’s markets, as renters seek more business-friendly, lower-taxed and low-density cities. These favorable trends are increasing the desirability of its markets and boosting demand for rental units.

Amid this, MAA is well-poised to capture recovery in demand and leasing compared to expensive coastal markets. We expect strong rent growth and stable occupancy to drive revenue growth.

Our projection for the average physical occupancy for 2022 is 96.0%. For 2023 and 2024, the average physical occupancy is expected at 96.2% and 96.3%, respectively. Our projections for top-line growth point to an increase of 11.5% in the current year. We expect the top line to further exhibit 6.9% and 6.2% growth in 2023 and 2024, respectively.

MAA continues to implement its three internal investment programs — interior redevelopment, property repositioning projects and Smart Home installations. The programs will help the company capture the upside potential in rent growth, generate accretive returns and boost earnings from its existing asset base.

Along with the healthy operating fundamentals of Sunbelt markets and a robust development pipeline, the prospects of its redevelopment program and progress in technology measures are likely to drive margin expansion. We expect same-store net operating income (“NOI”) to grow 15% in 2022. The projections for 2023 and 2024 also look encouraging.

MAA enjoys a solid balance sheet, with low leverage and ample availability under its revolving credit facility. It generated 95.1% unencumbered NOI in the second quarter of 2022, providing the scope for tapping additional secured debt capital if required.

Solid dividend payouts are arguably the biggest enticements for REIT shareholders, and MAA remains committed to that. In May 2022, the company announced a common stock cash dividend of $1.25 per share, marking a 15% hike over the prior payment.

Moreover, in December 2021, the company announced a common stock cash dividend of $1.0875 per share. This marked a 6.1% sequential hike and the 12th consecutive annual increase in the company’s dividend.

Backed by robust operating fundamentals, we expect core adjusted funds from operations (FFO) to increase 17.7% in 2022 and 10.4% in 2023. Looking at the company’s core adjusted FFO growth projections and its lower dividend payout (compared to its industry), its dividend distribution is expected to be sustainable.

Although shares of this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) residential REIT have increased 2.3% in the past three months, underperforming the industry’s growth of 3.3%, MAA is experiencing a favorable estimate revision trend. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the company’s 2022 FFO per share has been revised marginally upward in the past month.

Zacks Investment Research
Zacks Investment Research

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Stocks to Consider

Some key picks from the REIT sector include Equity Residential EQR and BRT Apartments BRT.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Equity Residential’s ongoing year’s FFO per share has been raised marginally over the past month to $3.51. EQR carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for BRT Apartments’ 2022 FFO per share has moved 5.8% upward in the past month to $1.62. BRT presently sports a Zacks Rank of 1.

Note: Anything related to earnings presented in this write-up represents funds from operations (FFO) — a widely used metric to gauge the performance of REITs.

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